Healthy and General

Friend Inc. benefit bike ride to Brake the Cycle of Poverty

4 min read

Cyclists will once again tour the rural roads and covered bridges of northern Berks County, all in an effort to help those in need at the 13th annual Brake the Cycle of Poverty Benefit Bike Ride for Friend Inc. Community Services on Aug. 13.

“We are a United Way Community partner and are exceedingly grateful for their support but honestly it takes more. This event, and our annual Auction in April, generates much needed dollars directly into our ability to address food insecurity and other necessary supports for our neighbors in need (and there is a lot of need,” said Friend Inc. Executive Director James Reece.  “Every single penny raised stays right here in Berks County.”

Every month between 400 and 500 individuals (and their pets) benefit from Friend’s Noble Street self-select food pantry as do more than 200 Kutztown University students at Friend’s campus pantry. Another 90 receive support from Friend’s Alburtis Mobile Market.

“In fact, for over 30 years, Friend, Inc. has been at the very forefront in delivering food and social services throughout northeastern Berks County,” he said.

Each year more than 560 individuals are impacted through direct and referral support for things such as utilities, housing, SNAP and medical assistance, he said.

“The ride also allows us to create awareness of the services offered so that maybe someone who is not aware that help is around the corner can now access that help and make their life, and their family, a little more secure,” said Reece.

The Brake the Cycle of Poverty ride helps fund the various food pantries and social support programs that Friend offers to the community. Friend raises funds in two ways with this event. The first is through registration fees ($40 in advance, $50 day of) and the second is through the rider’s individual crowdfunding page which we create for them.

“The rider then promotes their page on social media and among friends and colleagues. It also helps us create awareness of the good work the agency does in the community,” said Reece.

If not a rider, the community can donate at

2021 ride exceeds expectations

As with many other events amid the pandemic, the 2020 benefit bike ride was held virtually, with participants riding on their own.

The 12th annual benefit bike ride was Friend’s largest ride to date with 170 riders and exceeded their estimated fundraising goal, raising an estimated $11,000. The previous six years, the event raised an average of $8,500.

“Two years ago it was a virtual event meaning that folks just went out on their own following the course guides,” said Reece. “Last year I think everyone was more than ready to get together and ride!”

For the 2022 ride, Reece estimates they are slightly ahead in the number of preregistrations from the same time a year ago, estimating there could be 200 or so riders.

“The different routes launch at different times so it’s not as chaotic as that may seem.”

A scenic ride

The ride takes cyclists from Kutztown to Dreibelbis Station Bridge through Oley and back to Kutztown.

“Northeastern Berks County is, quite simply, beautiful. Corn’s high and deeply green and if we’re lucky there will be a bright blue sky,” said Reece. “Two of the courses (there are four to choose from) ride through the covered bridges that are open to traffic which gives the riders a bit of wonderful history too!”

The four road courses of 62, 40, 25 and 10 miles allow the entire range of ability to participate.

“We had one couple last year riding a tandem and another had their toddler in tow in a covered cart!  We had riders come from as far away as Baltimore, South Jersey, and lower New York state but most are from Berks and our surrounding counties,” he said.

Starting at the Rickenbach Learning Center on the Kutztown University campus, riders could choose from four courses: a 62-mile ride through all four covered bridges in Berks County; a 40-mile ride that crosses two covered bridges; a 25-mile ride on winding back roads or a 10-mile scenic ride perfect for beginners and families.

In addition to the ride, there will be a post-ride medical massage therapist back again this year, a number of vendors, and of course light fare, refreshments and music.

“Truly something for everyone.”

The event will be held from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Aug. 13. Registration fees are $40 in advance, $50 day of. If not a rider, make contributions at

The funds will be used to support Friend’s mission of helping those in times of need.

Friend Inc. services include a client-choice food pantry, campus satellite pantry for Kutztown University students, and case management services which address food insecurity, money management education, assistance with utilities, rent, transitional housing, and referrals to outside agencies. Friend, Inc. is also the Kutztown home for Safe Berks, Family Guidance Center and Maternal and Family Health Services (WIC).

“We are here, working every day to help alleviate the very real issues that families face on a daily basis. We don’t just ‘hand out food’. We are educators, providers, and friends to those we work with,” said Reece. “I want more of our community to know that these are their neighbors, coworkers, and friends that could use a little help on the road to self-sufficiency and that they are probably not even aware of.”

The Friend Inc. office at 658D Noble St. is open to walk-ins or for scheduled appointments on Mondays from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Friend, Inc. Community Services offers a Food Pantry and satellite pantry for Kutztown University students along with case management services which address food insecurity, money management education, and assistance with utilities, rent, and transitional housing. For more information about Friend, Inc. visit